As a handmade skincare business owner, there are so many different ingredient and packaging vendors to explore, so many online services and programs to pack into a small startup budget. It’s hard to know how one company is different from another.
I have tried out a LOT of different B2B businesses over the years, and I am happy to share my list of recommendations with you (and why I prefer them) to help you cut that research time in half for your own product line.
If you have any follow-up questions, head over to our DIY Skin Care Biz Facebook Community and ask away!
Skin Care Ingredient Vendors
The quality of essential oils is everything to my product line, and Plant Therapy is my absolute go-to as a certified aromatherapist and essential oil specialist.
They have great prices because they’re not an MLM, they have the research (GC/MS reports) on every single batch of oil they sell, free shipping, and offer bulk pricing. I use them for raw ingredients as well (such as carrier oils, beeswax, and butters).
Starwest Botanicals is where I purchase dry ingredients like clays, activated charcoal, menthol crystals, and dried herbs.
They also carry some liquid items that Plant Therapy doesn’t, such as witch hazel, castile soap, a different variety of hydrosols, and some fun, surprising items that make you stop and think…”hmmm, how could I incorporate this into my line?” (I love a good scroll-stopper)!
Their shipping discounts (for U.S. customers) based on order amount are also VERY welcome in a time when S&H keeps going up and up!
The majority of my ingredients come from the above two vendors. If by chance they don’t have what I need, I go to Wholesale Supplies Plus. I don’t have them on the main recommendation list because not all things that they carry are natural or unrefined – make sure you read the product descriptions, reviews, and ask questions before purchasing if you have a 100% natural product line.
I tried several different label companies, and I found Avery the easiest to use with the widest collection of ‘everything printed promo’ (labels, business cards, stickers, postcards, tags, etc). They have blank sheets and roll labels you can print at home or professional printing to get a unique look that is difficult to achieve when printing on your own.
Label design software is available on their site for beginners (seasoned makers tend to design in a different program and upload it to Avery after the fact, either way works). There are many templates available on their site if you’re in need of inspiration and/or a starting point.
Etsy has so much to offer for handmade sellers looking for custom details. One of my favorite branding tools is a logo stamp from West and Sage (I use it on my shipping boxes, product bags, and gift boxes).
This is also a great place to get custom label design work (MLA Designs is amazing) that you can then upload to Avery for printing.
I’ve been using Paper Mart for years (I love supporting family businesses!) to supply my ribbon, muslin bags, gift boxes, and a few product containers.
If you ever do in-person events such as Farmer’s Markets or fairs, Paper Mart also has a large variety of table display accessories and shopping bag options.
Tip: Paper Mart’s Reward Program gives you a few sweet perks throughout the year!
All of my glass bottles, jars, lip balm tubes, aromatherapy rollers, etc. come from SKS Bottle & Packaging. They do a great job on their website of having all the dimensions you need for making labels, choosing shrink wrap, and getting the correct add-ons (plus they provide unit cost in addition to the full case cost, a huge time-saver when comparison shopping).
The best perk is that shipping is free for $350+ orders, and that is an INSANE bonus now that shipping, in general, is astronomically high.
I’m sharing the tent and lighting setup I started with years ago – it worked incredibly well for the small living space I was in at the time.
The photo tent lightbox is large enough to arrange skin care products with a few props, and it folds down into a flat square so you can easily store it.
I used these little tabletop lights on the right and left sides of the photo tent to create a high contrast, well-lit product photo.
My current setup has a bit of a larger footprint (I keep it up all the time now in a dedicated ‘photoshoot area’ for faster sessions thanks to having more workspace than before), and I use two of these photo backdrop boards and a pair of softbox lights.
My particular set of boards provides a modern look that works with my current branding, though there are tons of different styles you can choose from. I like that they’re sturdy and easy to clean with a quick wipe (rather than having to wash and iron a fabric backdrop).
Content Creation Lighting
This little gadget has been an extremely cool addition to my business toolkit (that I admittedly purchased because of a catchy Facebook ad and so glad I did!).
The overhead light allows you to take photos and videos from straight above, providing tons of content creation ideas – fun social media videos of creating products, putting on labels, an unboxing video, stylized product flat lays, etc.
The pole/light combo configures to a straight-up position as well, so you could easily do headshot product tutorials or talking-head videos on your own. I was SUPER happy to replace my flimsy ring light with this fella (oh, and it has a wireless setup and comes with a handy Bluetooth remote!).
I learned about Pirate Ship waaaaay too late in my e-commerce career. This is a SUPER easy-to-use shipping software program that compares USPS and UPS prices.
Perk #1 (besides being 100% free to use) is that it offers discounted shipping labels. Wahoo!!!
Perk #2 is that you can connect any and all of the platforms you sell on and it funnels all of your orders directly into it. For example, I sell on both Etsy and Shopify, and because I integrated both to my Pirate Ship account, all orders from both platforms show up automatically.
It’s genius (and I have zero clue as to why it’s free).
I think most makers are familiar with the free version of Canva (that’s where I started, too). I upgraded to Canva Pro because it offers premium features like background removal (a staple for my branding), stock photos you can’t find anywhere else (a must for my website), super awesome design templates, cloud storage, tutorials, and last but certainly not least…it includes a social media scheduler for up to 8 platforms!!!
Canva Pro is without a doubt the (marketing) backbone of my skin care business – an industry that demands modern, attractive designs.
I have sold on a variety of e-commerce platforms throughout my career: Etsy, Shopify, Wix, Pattern, Facebook, Squarespace, Ecohabitude, Wanelo.
My two favorite platforms (no question) are Etsy and Shopify. I recommend both for different reasons, as the one best for you depends on your personal situation and how you want to go about growing your business.
Etsy (a marketplace) is easier to set up (no choice about fonts or the formatting of your store) and a small financial risk (20 cents a listing with a *5% transaction fee), so a great place to get your feet wet if you haven’t sold online before. You can learn what products your target market likes and work on improving your sales copy and product photography without having to worry about website design at the same time.
••• You can get your first 40 listings for free here if you’re ready to get started and have never opened an Etsy shop before. •••
*Etsy’s transaction fees will be increasing to 6.5% on April 11, 2022
Shopify (a stand-alone website builder) is more customizable and scalable for the individual that is prepared to do more in the design department. It’s still pretty darn easy (compared to building a website on your own) with the provided starter templates and tutorials.
If you’re in it for the long-haul, Shopify offers a gazillion extra things to get yourself actually discoverable in an online search (aka, SEO – Search Engine Optimization), including blog posts, adding additional website pages, and the ability to edit your page titles, meta descriptions, URL handles, and all alt-text.
The way that Facebook is used for attracting business is different than it was when the platform first came out…so much more than just sharing posts and quotes.
My particular target market isn’t using Facebook daily, but I still have a page because it’s a ‘must’ in order to have an Instagram account, it’s where you upload your catalog to have a shoppable grid (on Instagram), and you need Facebook Events Manager to set up Facebook Pixel on your website (if you ever think that FB or Instagram ads are in your future).
My target market IS hanging out on Instagram, so this is where I focus my energy in regards to regularly sharing posts, Stories, and engaging with other accounts.
I know there are other new, quickly growing social media platforms out there, but I personally don’t have the time to learn the new trends each time a new one is launched (I also have this website, after all!). My strategy is ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and I still have a very healthy ROI from Instagram.
That being said, if you have the time, sometimes jumping on the bandwagon with a young platform can get you followers quickly and really pay off (if you’re using the low competition in a strategic way to get the audience to your site or email list).
I have tried a handful of email service providers, and I returned back to MailerLite as my final choice for my skin care product line (a YEARS-long trial-and-test project!!!).
They are free up to 1,000 subscribers (with a 12,000 email cap), have great newsletter templates for e-commerce sellers, allow for automations (a MUST), and earned ‘Best Email Deliverability’ in 2021.
I’ll have more posts and resources on how to use MailerLite with Shopify and Etsy in the future; until then, they have free online courses available (click on ‘MailerLite Academy’ in the Resources section after signing up) that are crystal clear and walk you through everything.
Inventory and Bookkeeping
I’m embarrassed to tell you how long it took me to find a bookkeeping system that worked for me. I tried all of the ‘big dog’ software programs (many times) that I’m sure you’ve seen advertised during tax time, but they just weren’t right for handmade e-commerce. I also tried to make spreadsheets on my own, guessing my way through the process (with the help of five million google searches). That didn’t feel good either.
I stumbled upon Paper + Spark (I *think* in a webinar that I watched a couple of years ago?) and it clarified EVERYTHING ‘numbers’. The owner is a CPA who specializes in handmade entrepreneurship and makes the language and to-dos SUPER easy to understand and manage for all things pricing, inventory, and bookkeeping.
The spreadsheets are a ONE TIME fee (goodbye monthly software charges) with FREE ongoing support that I continue to learn more from every day. The value I receive for the price I paid seriously blows me away. I will recommend them until I’m blue in the face.
These are the spreadsheets that I purchased to keep track of ALL business numbers (I sell on both Etsy and Shopify…obviously you would only get resources relevant to your own business needs):
- Inventory Cost & Pricing Spreadsheet for Handmade Sellers
- Etsy Seller Spreadsheet
- Shopify Import Add-On
If you’re ready to tackle this side of your business and don’t know which spreadsheets to get, here’s a straightforward quiz that will tell you.
Hope you found a gem here to help your business-building journey!
If there is a category that you’re looking for and didn’t find a suggestion above, please reach out to our DIY Skin Care Biz Facebook Community and we’ll resesarch together!